The digital age is awash in devices that charge via USB port. Cell phones, MP3 players, some cameras, tablets, it seems like almost everything with a battery charges via USB.
This results in a computer with cables coming out of it every which way, or black boxes shoved into every outlet within reach. Neither solution is exactly attractive. Newer Technology aims to change that. They have come out with a wall outlet that has two high current USB charging ports built into it!
To the best of my knowledge this is a first, and it's an idea I rather like. If it works as well in reality as it does in theory, this is a fantastic idea. I will, of course, check how it works here in reality.
Generally at this point the company gets some space to talk about themselves, copied from their About Us page. Newer Technology's About Us page is a huuuuuge list of accomplishments sorted by year/month, far too large to fit here in full.
Features and Specifications
Direct from the Product Page at Newertech.com
AC/USB Wall Outlet - The convenient and energy-efficient in-wall solution for powering and charging USB devices.
The Newer Technology Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet is the convenient and energy-efficient in-wall solution for powering and charging USB devices. Now you can charge and/or power up to four devices at once when using the USB 3.0/2.0 ports and standard three-prong outlets, while eliminating unsightly clutter created by multiple cables and bulky power adapters.
Ideal "DIY" Upgrade For Multiple Device Users
Ideal for users of multiple USB chargeable devices, the Power2U AC/USB Wall Outlet is a basic "DIY" install on any 15Amp circuit with a 16 cubic inch electrical box** to blend seamlessly into the wall as a standard power outlet. A "straightforward" rated "how to" video demonstrates how the Power2U can be installed in as little as 20 minutes.
Money Saving, Energy Efficient Design
Offering a modern, centralized location for charging/powering USB devices, the Power2U offers two energy efficient features to complement its use convenience. The Smart Power design only outputs enough charging power required by the attached device, while spring-loaded Safety Shutters turn power off to the USB ports to eliminate "vampire" energy draw when a connecting cable is removed.
Install With Confidence
With the free, how-to installation video, you can have Power2U installed in as little as 20 minutes!
Video: OWC Answers Common Power2U Installation Questions
*To maintain factory-stated charging duration when charging two iPads or a combination of iPad and any other USB rechargeable device simultaneously, we recommend charging the iPad via the factory wall adapter.
**Electrical boxes typically range from 15 to 16 cubic inches. To determine the size of the electrical box you intend to install a Power2U into, turn off power to outlet, remove faceplate cover, and measure height, width, and depth of the box. Multiplying those measurements together will equal the cubic inches or volume of the electrical box. If you are unsure of how to do these and/or cannot follow all safety precautions, you should consult an licensed electrician.
iPads require a tremendous amount of current to charge quickly, hence the warning above. Everything else is much more reasonable about its needs. Let's see some specs next:
Compatible Electrical Boxes (not an exhaustive list)
Quite the spec list, possibly just a touch more than the end user really needs. It's nice to get more specs than required rather than less though so I really can't complain.
Despite the color being listed only as white, I can find both white and black for sale online.
Time for some pictures perhaps?
Photos Part One: Packaging and External
The packaging is quite simple, just a plastic blisterpack type thing.
I like this thing already. Let's take it out of the packaging and look at it in more detail. It looks more or less the same. Do note the 5.2v label, if you're powering something that wants exactly 5v you could have issues. On the other hand, PSU 5V spec is from 4.75v to 5.25v, so 5.2 is with spec for that. I'll take the faceplate off next.
Those white plastic tabs that stick up interface with the faceplate USB port covers and push down a switch in the back portion when the door is opened. Note the depth of outlet box this outlet requires! Shallow outlet boxes need not apply, which is an issue for me as my house is ancient and has a lot of parallel wiring stuffed into the back of the boxes. I had to make a test jig up for the testing phase. That's later, though.
On the rear they have 13mm marked off for easy reference, pretty cool. Here we have the Live side, note the gold/brass colored screws. On the other side we have silver colored screws, this is the neutral wire side. The green screw on the bottom is for ground.
Photos Part Two: Dissection and Instructions
First up, the instructions: If you aren't comfortable mucking about with house wiring, don't. Having an outlet installed won't cost much and you're much better off having it done professionally than guessing your way through it. Definitely don't take the thing apart, like I did. Since you won't, I'll show you pictures of what is inside. With the backplate off we see the bridge rectifier, a power bus (for the switches), some dubious soldering and a few components. Here's the soldering up close:
On one hand, it could be better. On the other hand, they're checking for issues in the factory and hand finishing things, which is good. I'll call it acceptable. The pin closest to the camera has a touchup that looks like a crack, it's not actually a crack. On the other side of the PCB we find:
Essentially, the 5vSB circuit from a desktop power supply. The two switches switch the neutral wire to turn the circuit off if nothing is plugged in, so no power is wasted during downtime. Pretty cool.
I'm not going to go over installation, if you don't know what you're doing you don't have any business doing it in my opinion, and any guide I give you isn't going to change that. Suffice to say that it installs just like any other wall outlet, except it needs a deep box.
Performance and Ripple Testing
Lacking a dedicated USB test setup, I made a simple one. It draws ~2 amps through an array of 60 high brightness RGBLEDs. I used the same B&K Precision oscilloscope that I use for PSU reviews to check the output ripple.
First up, zero load, not that you'll actually have a zero load condition with it in use.
At zero load, it put out 5.26v and had ripple of ~22 mV as seen below. Scope set to 10ms / 20mV.
Not bad at all, pretty good really.
With a load of 2 amps (max spec) it put out 4.85v and ~128mV of ripple. Scope still at 10ms / 20mV:
This is less impressive. On one hand it really can do the two amps it says it can, that's great. The ripple, were it a computer PSU, would be pretty bad. As a replacement for wall-warts 128mV is an improvement. Many wall-wart type 5V power supplies are horrendous. Most battery chargers aren't going to care in the slightest, I'd say "all" but there's always that one (1) super picky unit out there somewhere!
I'll give the performance of this unit a pass, but dock a few points on general principle.
Speaking of points, let's head to the last page for a summary, some bullet points, and a final score!
Verdict and Conclusion
The concept wall-plug-with-USB-ports is a very cool one, I can only find one other outlet beyond the Power2U outlet. The Power2U has an MSRP of $25 for singles, and less in a combo pack, this compares well to the $30-35 MSRP of the competitor. Better yet the Power2U is on sale for the holidays at ~$12/each.
The non-sale prices average $22, which isn't bad. The alternative does rate itself higher, at 2.6 amps. I'll call the normal price decent and the sale price (which may continue after the holidays, that'd be my guess) excellent. There is a third flavor of USB wall outlet, but it only has USB ports, no 110vAC plugs. I don't like that concept nearly as much, though if I were building a new house I'd consider it. It's not included in the comparisons as it's a fairly different product.
Installation is easy if your wall box has enough room, even easier than a normal plug with screw terminals. If your wall box doesn't have enough room, it's time for a new wall box. The competitor lists the same space requirements, for whatever that's worth.
Output power stays within USB 5V spec from zero load through 100%, that's nice to see. It's towards the edges, but that's ok for charging batteries and such. At full load it's not the cleanest power by any means, but should be OK for most purposes.
Looks wise I like it, the doors that cover the USB ports when not in use clean up the look nicely.
The doors being closed shutting the unit off is a very cool feature, I like it a lot.
All told, there are pros:
There are a few cons too:
Overall, I think this is an excellent concept that has been well executed by Newer Technology. It could be cleaner power and the normal price could be better. At the holiday price however the Power2U cannot be beat. All told and taking into account the normal pricing, I give it 8.9/10 and a Recommended badge, as I definitely recommend looking into the Power2U if you have a lot of USB wall-warts in use.